Saturday, 22 February 2014

Let them eat ... ?

My brother Mervyn hit a spot of bother last year, when criminal activity emptied his bank account. Merv earns a low wage in light engineering: in addition to his wage, he receives some support for raising his step-son, and housing benefit. He still has to pay some rent though, and waking up to find he couldn't pay it came as a shock, especially when non- payment threatened to become an eviction issue.

So here's the choice. Become homeless, or eat. 

Merv could have asked me to sub. him, but he wouldn't. He asked his Social Worker for help. Steve, the Social Worker, is a caring and savvy guy, and he had a ready answer."Go to the Food Bank in Great Western Rd." Merv, being over, 55 could get vouchers from Help The Aged. ( No, you can't, I assure you, just walk in and scrounge, despite what you may have heard from the right wing nasties. You have to apply to a recognised agency and be assessed. You may receive a maximum of three vouchers.) 

I am telling this story to illustrate that anyone can find themselves with an empty cupboard, mouths to feed,  and no other means to do so than turn to charities for help. 

I have read accounts of yesterday's Parliamentry debate, and I am not impressed. Though I have long since stopped blaming politicians for behaving like politicians, I do become exasperated when the lobbing match degrades the debate and demeans the participants. Most of the time, then. ( Is it any wonder the electorate is turned off?) 

The problem will be worsened  in April when under-25's lose their housing benefit. (In order to 'nudge' them into moving back in with their parents, I expect, because that's what happens in La-La land.) I recently spoke with a case worker with the agency responsible for housing the homeless in Gloucester, and she is preparing for a crisis, as the agency is already under-funded and over-committed.

The good news is that the research undertaken by the University of Warwick, and sponsored by DEFRA  on 'Food Aid in the UK' has finally been published. 

The report is 81 pages long, and may be found here:

You might want to skip to the conclusions, which finds - no surprise to the those who know more than some government supporters want to -  my brother is a typical user of the Food Bank. The idle scrounger doesn't even get a mention.... 

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